March is upon us and your favorite college basketball teams are preparing for the madness that is the NCAA tournament. Tennis players who may be putting aside their racket to catch a few games on television should also consider picking up a basketball themselves. The skills required to play basketball can improve your strength and agility on the tennis court, so why not grab a few friends for a pickup game? Whether you can swish a three-pointer or admittedly, always shoot airballs, here are some reasons to consider trading in your tennis shoes for high tops every so often.
1. Extension and Follow Through
A proper groundstroke in tennis requires the player extend their arm through the shot after connecting with the ball. Likewise, a good basketball player will hold their follow through long after releasing the ball for a shot. In both instances, the follow through is a natural continuation of a long, relaxed motion that helps produce power and accuracy. Practicing a follow through on the basketball court can help you remember to hold your groundstroke follow through in your next tennis match.
2. Seeing the Court
No matter how good your strokes are, if you don’t understand strategy, you can’t win a tennis match. A good tennis player anticipates their opponent’s next move so that they can set up a winning play. In basketball, the point guard is often the player who sets up the strategy for each offensive play. Good point guards have the ability to “see the court” — that is, to be conscious of the movement and position of each of the other nine players on the court. In both basketball and tennis, awareness of opponents and teammates is one of the keys to victory. Play point guard in your next pickup game to practice your court awareness.
An athletic stance is necessary in any sport, but bending your knees in a basketball game can carry over to the tennis court. In basketball, stance is particularly important when playing defense. A strong defensive stance allows the player to move in any direction the offense goes and have quick hands to block shots or passes. We see a similar stance on the tennis court with the volley split-step. To play well at the net, a player must be able to move wherever their opponent hits the ball as well as bend their knees to get low balls. Perfecting your defensive stance in a basketball game can remind you to get low the next time you play at the net.
On the tennis court, players must transition quickly from offense to defense depending on their opponents’ shots. For example, a tennis player can hit an offensive, attacking shot to come into the net, but then be forced to transition to defense if their opponent hits a lob over their head. A defensive shot will typically be hit higher over the net to allow the player to get back into position. On the basketball court, teams also transition from offense to defense quickly and must either be prepared to push the ball up the court before the defense gets set, or run back to get into position before the offense can make a play. Being able to transition well from offense to defense, and vice versa, is a crucial skill in basketball and tennis.
Has your tennis coach ever told you that he wants to hear your shoes squeak on the court? Basketball players have probably heard the same thing from their coaches. Basketball players need to have have quick, short steps and be able to sidestep in order to follow a defender. They also must be able to explode into a sprint at any time. Similarly, tennis players have to be quick on their feet in order to chase down a ball and then be able to sidestep to get back into position. Head to the basketball court for the best footwork drill out there!